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SIne DIe Edition 1

The Georgia General Assembly returned to the State Capitol for the final week of the 2024 legislative session on March 28, also known as Sine Die. It was a very busy week as we worked late into the nights carrying out the people’s business and making progress for Georgians statewide. 

In the coming days, we’ll share key legislative highlights that we voted on from the Rules calendars in our final days, as well as legislation that received final passage in the General Assembly. The most important bill, and the only one the General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass, is the budget, so we will start here first:

Budget Priorities and Investments:
On the last day of the session, we gave final passage to a Fiscal Year 2025 (FY 2025) budget, which will become effective July 1, 2024, fulfilling our constitutional obligation of the session. The passage of this budget, set at $36.1 billion, marks a significant milestone in Georgia's commitment to addressing the diverse needs of its citizens and reflects a robust investment across various sectors for the state’s growth and prosperity.
Major investments include:

K-12 Education:

The FY 2025 budget demonstrates a significant commitment to Georgia's education sector, prioritizing key initiatives essential for advancing K-12 education. Notably, HB 916 fully supports  the Quality Basic Education (QBE) program with a historic allocation of $14.1 billion in state funds. This budget also includes measures to boost teacher salaries, earmarking $373.6 million to raise the state base salary schedule by $2,500. Funds are allocated for salary increases for school nutrition workers, bus drivers, school nurses and Regional Education Services Agencies (RESA) staff, along with $8.5 million designated for $1,000 salary supplements for school custodians.

Additionally, $6.3 million is allocated to the school nutrition program to cover breakfast and lunch costs for reduced-paying students, and $2 million in school nutrition formula funds is provided to local school systems to maintain affordable meal prices, addressing key priorities outlined by the House.

The budget also prioritizes literacy with $6.1 million for reading grants, including literacy coaches and pay supplements. School safety receives $109 million for the School Security Grants program, providing $45,000 grants to each school. Another $200 million is allocated for student transportation, addressing increased operating costs, with total funding reaching $353.5 million in FY 2025. This increased funding reflects the House's commitment to enhancing education and safety measures in Georgia. Communities in Schools also receives an extra $1 million to support students academically and non-academically, with a focus on improving attendance, behavior and graduation rates.

Early Childhood Education:

The FY 2025 budget allocates more than $57.5 million in new lottery funds to the Department of Early Care and Learning. These funds will implement recommendations from the House Early Childhood Education Working Group, including reducing class sizes, increasing start-up grants for new classrooms, providing classroom replenishment grants, enhancing transportation funding, boosting operating funds for private Pre-K providers and improving pay for Pre-K lead and assistant teachers. These strategic investments highlight the House's commitment to enhancing educational opportunities and outcomes for all students in Georgia.

Education and Workforce Pipeline:
My colleagues and I also made significant strides to increase funding for higher education system to enhance educational excellence, workforce development and student preparation.
As such, the budget includes $1.5 million for the David Ralston Center for Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities at the University of Georgia, addressing workforce needs for individuals with disabilities.

HB 916 also allocates an extra $15 million for the Dual Enrollment program, supporting high school students' access to college-level courses. We've prioritized healthcare infrastructure investments to enhance health outcomes and meet public health demands statewide, allocating $500,000 to Morehouse School of Medicine’s Center for Maternal Health Equity for infant mortality research. Another $1 million is included for supplemental illness-specific insurance for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

HB 916 also boosts funding for various Medicaid providers, with $5.6 million for therapists, $12.6 million for primary care providers, $392,173 for optometrists and $648,829 for pharmacists. It also allocates $10.5 million for dental services and $603,883 for dialysis treatment of acute kidney injuries among the Medicaid

Housing Initiatives:
To tackle housing challenges, the budget allocates funds to Georgia's economic development sector. Specifically, within the Department of Community Affairs, $1 million is earmarked for the accountable housing initiative, aimed at providing stable housing for the homeless while ensuring long-term affordability. Additionally, the House supports the governor's proposal to allocate $3.7 million for enhanced homelessness services through federal grants.
Furthermore, $6 million is appropriated for the Rural Workforce Housing Initiative, which aims to improve housing options in rural areas to meet workforce needs.

Mental and Behavioral Health:

The budget includes $3.2 million for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to establish the Macon Crisis Stabilization Diagnostic Center, which will be the state's first crisis support center for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. HB 916 provides $500,000 to assist homeless Georgians through housing vouchers, behavioral health services and rapid rehousing initiatives.

The budget also supports veterans with funding for a coordinator to aid homeless veterans and $1 million for behavioral health services foractive-duty military personnel and veterans through the Georgia Veterans Service.

Child Safety:
HB 916 demonstrates a commitment to protecting Georgia's children by allocating $1 million to expand the capacity of court-appointed special advocates and $1 million to enhance forensic and mental health services at the state's Child Advocacy Centers.

Public Safety:
It allocates significant funding for public safety initiatives, particularly aimed at strengthening law enforcement, preventing crime and supporting victims. Notably, the bill sets aside $45.9 million for a $3,000 salary increase for law enforcement officers in 21 state agencies, demonstrating a commitment to attracting and retaining skilled professionals in law enforcement.

The FY 2025 budget includes $10 million for the Georgia Department of Corrections to establish 400 transitional center beds at the Metro Re-entry Center, aiding inmates; reintegration into society post release. It directs $12.7 million to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) to support 48 domestic violence shelters and $2 million for 28 sexual assault centers, covering administrative and facility costs to ensure compliance with state standards.

Lastly, HB 916 appropriates $4.3 million to the CJCC for hiring a dedicated sexual assault nurse examiner coordinator, reinforcing the integrity of forensic medical examinations crucial for prosecuting sexual assault cases. Additional notable investments in the FY 2025 budget include:

● $260 million for a four percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees
● $5 million for third-party ballot-text auditing technology to enhance election verification and transparency
● $2.4 billion to bolster Georgia's transportation system, improving mobility, reducing congestion and ensuring the safety and efficiency of roads, bridges and transit networks.

Please stay tuned for more information on critical legislation we’ve worked to pass this session. As always, we remain committed to advancing simple, smart and effective government for you and your families.

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